USDA Grants Available for Meat Processors (& Producers)
First off, all federal grants require you to first register in the System for Award Management (SAM), then register with Grants.gov. This process can take up to 4 weeks, so keep that in mind for proposal due dates.
You do not need to hire a grantwriter to submit a winning proposal, but it could help. Understand that skilled grantwriters often have a lot of clients with similar deadlines. Start looking for one well ahead of time if you plan to apply. They generally will need to budget around 40-80 hours to complete your proposal, depending on how much information you can provide them for the application. This could cost you anywhere between $4-10K, depending on the size and scope of your proposal. The more you can dedicate towards writing your proposal, the less time and cost you will need from your grantwriting consultant. Try to give yourselves 6-8 weeks to put together your proposal and do not wait until the last minute.
If you need letters of support for your proposal, ask your partner/supporters well ahead of time for that letter. Even better, put together a draft letter for them to use and sign, that way there is less work for them to do.
If a grant program offers instructional webinars beforehand that dive deeper into the nuts and bolts of a program and how to apply, it is worth your time to attend them or watch the replay.
Technical Assistance Support:
Meat and Poultry Processing Capacity Technical Assistance Program (MPPTA): As part of Biden-Harris Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has established cooperative agreements with three non-profit organizations to coordinate and provide technical assistance utilizing a wide range of expertise and outreach strategies. These organizations will also establish a national network of support for meat and poultry grant applicants to navigate the application process, and to assist grant recipients throughout their project. The Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network (NMPAN) is one of those organizations.
We are offering technical assistance via one-on-one phone calls with a suite of expert consultants that we have assembled for this project. You can book a free 30 minute phone call with one of them, and receive some follow up by email if necessary. These consultants, and their expertise, are as follows:
Grant-writing advice and how to put together a winning proposal:
Alex Freeman & Brooke Miller of Agriculture Grant Solutions
Abbe Turner, consultant
Facility planning (feasibility studies, business planning, facility considerations:
Keith DeHaan & Samantha Egolf of Food & Livestock Planning
Supply chain development (securing supply, selling the whole animal, finding buyers, etc):
Kathryn Quanbeck, consultant
Operations, equipment, food safety, human resources, & steps to come under inspection:
Chris Fuller, Fuller Consulting
Tracy Smaciarz, consultant
Arion Thiboumery, consultant
Dr. Joe M. Regenstein, professor at Cornell University
Spanish language support/Ayuda en español:
Francisco Najar-Villareal PhD., Ultrasource
USDA Rural Development Grant Programs currently open:
Meat & Poultry Processing Expansion Program Grants: The Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program (MPPEP) provides grants to help eligible processors expand their capacity. USDA Rural Development designed the MPPEP to encourage competition and sustainable growth in the U.S. meat processing sector, and to help improve supply chain resiliency. Applications are due May 11, 2022. See the Request for Applications here. Maximum award size is $25 million or 20% of total project costs, whichever amount is smaller.
MPPEP Grant funds can be used to expand processing capacity by supporting activities such as:
- Building new – or modernizing or expanding existing – processing facilities
- Developing, installing, or modernizing equipment and technology
- Ensuring compliance with packaging and labeling requirements
- Upholding occupational and other safety requirements
- Modifying facilities or equipment to protect food safety
- Paying for voluntary grading services on value-added processed products
- Offsetting costs associated with becoming an inspected facility
- Supporting workforce recruitment, training, and retention
Value-Added Producers Grants: The Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and marketing of new products. The goals of this program are to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities and increase producer income. You may receive priority if you are a beginning farmer or rancher, a socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, a small or medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a family farm, a farmer or rancher cooperative or are proposing a mid-tier value chain.
Maximum award size is $75,000 (planning grants) or $250,000 (implementation grants). Proposals are due April 25, 2022.
USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Grant Programs currently open:
Meat & Poultry Inspection Readiness Grants: The Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant (MPIRG) program assists currently operational meat and poultry slaughter and processing facilities in obtaining a Federal Grant of Inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) or the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA); or to operate as a State-inspected facility that is compliant with FMIA or PPIA under a respective Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) program. Applications are due May 24, 2022. See the Request for Applications here. Maximum award size is $200,000.
The MPIRG focuses on:
- Improving meat and poultry slaughter and processing capacity and efficiency;
- Developing new and expanding existing markets;
- Increasing capacity and better meeting consumer and producer demand;
- Maintaining strong inspection and food safety standards;
- Obtaining a larger commercial presence; and
- Increasing access to slaughter/processing facilities for smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged producers, veteran producers, and/or underserved communities.
To find out if you are eligible, see this flowchart here.
Farmers Market Promotion Program: Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) funds projects that develop, coordinate and expand direct producer-to-consumer markets to help increase access to and availability of locally and regionally produced agricultural products by developing, coordinating, expanding, and providing outreach, training, and technical assistance to domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agritourism activities, online sales or other direct producer-to-consumer (including direct producer-to-retail, direct producer-to-restaurant and direct producer-to-institutional marketing) market opportunities. Proposals are due May 16, 2022.
Examples of some meat related FMPP awarded projects:
2021, Miles Smith Farm, FMPP grant for launching a beef to hospital program (see summary here)
2018, Future Harvest, FMPP grant for community development, training, and technical assistance
Title: Amazing Grazing: Stepping up supply and demand for grass-fed meat, dairy, and other local, pasture-based products in the Chesapeake region.
Since 1998, Future Harvest, Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (FHCASA) has provided education and outreach to advance agriculture that is profitable, protects land and water, and serves communities with fresh, nutritious food. The proposed project – in collaboration with Mountains-2-Bay Grazing Alliance, Central Farm Markets, Maryland and Virginia Extension, Maryland Farmers Market Association, and many grazers – seeks to increase supply and demand of locally grown food. To optimize impact, this project will focus on pasture-raised meats and other products produced in the Chesapeake region. The recipients have three objectives: 1) increase number of grazers trained in direct-to-consumer marketing; 2) increase number of consumers informed about how and where to buy local grass-fed products and why it’s important; and 3) increase pasture-based product sales for area grazers. To accomplish these objectives, the recipients will launch a multi- faceted consumer education campaign, starting with updating the Amazing Grazing directory of producers, then piloting a Go Grass-fed Buying Club program, launching a wide-reaching multi-media campaign promoting grass-fed, and holding tasting events at popular farmers markets and festivals. For producers, the recipients will incorporate direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing training for grazers into FHCASA’s Beginner Farmer Training Program and Field Schools, expand the Grazer Mentorship Program, collaborate on an annual Grazers’ Summit, and more. During the project, consumer-oriented activities should reach about 300,000 consumers via events, social media, and press outreach. Producer programs will directly reach 1,500 area grazers. The Go-Grassfed Buying Clubs will initially serve 25 families.
Local Foods Promotion Program: The Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) funds projects that develop, coordinate and expand local and regional food business enterprises that engage as intermediaries in indirect producer to consumer marketing to help increase access to and availability of locally and regionally produced agricultural products. Grants can be used for the planning stages of establishing or expanding a local and regional food business enterprise or to improve or expand a food business that supports locally and regionally produced agricultural products and food system infrastructure by performing feasibility studies, market research, training and technical assistance for the business enterprise and/or for producers working with the business enterprise. Proposals are due May 16, 2022.
Examples of some meat related LFPP awarded projects:
2014, EcoFarm Association, LFPP Planning Grant for feasibility study (see summary here)
2015, Heart of the Valley Co-Op, LFPP Implementation Grant for launching meat co-op (see summary here)
2015 & 2016, Mighty Fine Poultry, LFPP Plannings Grants for feasibility study and business plan for new poultry processing facility (see summary here)
2014 & 2017, T & E Meats, LFPP Planning & Implementation Grants for design and expansion of meat processing facility, new software for tracking & traceability (see summary here)
2020, This Old Farm, LFPP Implementation Grant
Title: Local Meat Market Expansion Implementation
Our global pandemic has changed our world and brought the need for local food marketplaces to the forefront. Meat shortages have been seen as the larger commodity hog and beef facilities struggle to stay open. Meanwhile, in Colfax, IN This Old Farm Meats and Processing has continued to have beef, pork, and poultry available for sale from our network of local farms. Livestock producers have a hard time getting a market ready product produced. This Old Farm has worked for the last 10 years to help producers grow their markets by offering meat slaughter and processing services as well as aggregation of local meat products for wholesale sale. Currently This Old Farm is a rural business. To reach a ready retail market, This Old Farm looks to open a new Urban Old World Style Butcher Shop every 2-3 years starting in 2021. To meet the increased demand, farmer outreach programs will be expanded. Educational programming will be offered for youth, beginning farmers, as well as existing farmers that are new to selling direct to consumer. The pandemic has brought many farmers to us that had previously only sold through traditional markets. This new interest in local sales needs to be matched with education and appropriate services to help them stay engaged. To further encourage farmers to continue to direct market, Research and Development on shelf stable and other market ready product lines that can better compete in today’s marketplace will be supported.
2020, Practical Farmers of Iowa, LFPP Planning Grant
Title: Growing Pasture-Raised Meat Supply Chains in Iowa
To transform Iowa into a scene reminiscent of a verdant patchwork quilt – symbolic of a diverse and healthy landscape – we must create stable market incentives for pasture-based livestock agriculture. If viable markets existed, farmers would experience control over marketing decisions and increased profitability. This would improve their quality of life and more farmers would transition to diversified production systems. Farmers currently have a greater proportion of consumers’ attention and willingness to spend money on local food. The combination of an innovative market serving a network of regenerative farmers plus eager, conscientious consumers contributes to a resilient, healthy food supply. A critical mass of like-minded, regenerative livestock farmers exists in Iowa, and they’re ready to work together on something larger than is achievable as individuals. These farmers have identified marketing as their largest obstacle; either spending the majority of their energy direct marketing under their brands or undercutting themselves by selling livestock at conventional auctions in order to avoid marketing altogether. A middle ground exists, but key links in the supply chain need to be in place to conceive a viable business. This project will provide the connections necessary to establish market alternatives and develop farmers to be innovative entrepreneurs. Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) will hire an agriculture marketing consultant to work with a group of 60 farmers, including three market-savvy farmers who will develop a business plan for a pasture-raised, Iowa-based meat company. This project supports small farm viability, environmental stewardship, and supply chain resiliency.
2020, Four Hills Farm, LFPP Implementation Grant
Title: Expansion of Lamb Mid-Tier Value Chain
Four Hills Farm (FHF) is an experienced small business (LLC) and sheep farm with a solid twelve-year track record for aggregating, processing and marketing fresh lamb to wholesale accounts. Small and mid-sized sheep farms in the Midwest and Southeast regions do not typically have access to wholesale markets that provide consistent and profitable returns. This is due to their inability as individual enterprises to supply the volume, consistent quality, logistics, and marketing needed to deal directly with major grocery store chains. Four Hills Farm has created a year-round market for our network farms to supply a major retailer. In addition to offering a steady, stable price, FHF has created a significant opportunity for farmers to expand their sheep enterprises and make continuous production improvements over time. Currently we sell fresh lamb weekly to a nationally known supermarket chain with stores in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. We have an opportunity to increase sales with this customer into the Mid-West Region. By meeting our two objectives, both lamb supply chain and market expansions, we propose to increase lamb sales 65% in the next three years. The LFPP grant will result in 35 farms (22 new) in our network having access to a steady profitable wholesale market with growth opportunities and $1.8 million dollars of lamb sold annually, with proceeds of which will be distributed to farms and related businesses in rural Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
2020, Damian’s Craft Meats, LFPP Planning Grant
Title: Developing Southeast Michigan’s Local Meat Value Chain via Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration, Feasibility, Business Planning, and Facility Design.
The disparate impact of the dual public health and economic crises from COVID-19 is acutely felt by the meat industry, making this moment even more urgent. This window of disruption presents an opportunity to reverse patterns of inequality, consolidation, and disinvestment in order to advance an equitable food system and expand the local meat value chain in southeast Michigan. The purpose of this project is to bolster the growth of southeast Michigan’s meat sector through community collaboration and planning to better support the processing, aggregation, storage, and distribution of locally and regionally produced meat products. This public/private partnership will help realize the vision of a sustainable, vibrant, and thriving southeast Michigan meat value chain, serving as a replicable model for other sites across the country. Project leaders will drive the project, including completion of a comprehensive feasibility study, business plan and facility design for a multi- species USDA-inspected small processing business. Partners will make conference and webinar presentations to publicly disseminate final plans and lessons learned. Expected outcomes include plans that, if implemented, result in access to new market opportunities, processing services, meat storage, distribution channels, and potential herd expansion for 55 or more livestock producers. If implemented, this facility would create nine or more new jobs, ideally in a low income and low access area.